New CHS program is presented to the Cranford BOE

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CRANFORD, NJ — At the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Nov. 22, Cranford High School Principal Mark Cantagallo and Cranford High School Assistant Principal Justin Roach highlighted a new CHS program that will allow students to follow concentrations and earn more experience in the community and at area colleges.

Cantagallo and Roach discussed career academies that are being established at Cranford High School with Superintendent Scott Rubin and board members, specifically career and technical education.
“The state of New Jersey has 16 different job clusters they like to identify as focal points for jobs and careers. The career technical educational opportunity is intended for students to get experience in a high school atmosphere through extracurricular, postsecondary internship work,” Cantagallo said during the presentation. “It’s intended to help students make positive decisions instead (of) … decisions that cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars … only (to) realize … you’ve spent a lot of money and you don’t want to do this job, because it’s not as much fun as you thought or you didn’t get the experience in high school.

“We have 13 of these academies that we’re going to try and kick off in 2022, to help students get some career readiness, make informed decisions. You have opportunities to earn college credit,” he continued. “Right now, we currently have six different articulation agreements with colleges and we’re looking to … build more. … It’s important to remember that Cranford High School is for all students, and the program of CTE is for all students. In part of these programs, the likemindedness is certainly an attractive quality … to further educate our students.”

Cantagallo said that, out of the 1,030 responses to a survey focusing on career opportunities, students said the careers they would be most interested in were architecture and construction, arts, audiovisual technology and communications, business management and administration, education and training, health sciences, human services, information technology, marketing and science, technology and engineering.

“In order to become a CTE-certified program, the first thing you have to do is have a CTE program. … There are 16 clusters that the state identifies as career clusters. Within those clusters, there are 79 different career pathways, and we are going to propose 14 of those different pathways for the students of Cranford High School,” Roach said during the presentation. “The second piece is a sequence of three or more courses. One of the great things about this program is, a lot of the things that we’re already doing and are already in our program of studies fit right into the CTE programs, so it’s not really that much of a change or a shift, but it’s just reorganizing things in a different way. It has to be aligned with an extracurricular activity, so our plan is also to leverage the clubs, the organizations and the teams that we currently have that fit in nicely with each of these CTE programs.

“(For) internship opportunities, we already have a junior internship and senior service program in place. We have two teachers that are certified and trained as (structured learning experience) coordinators that would also serve the different academies to provide guidance and site visits for the different internship opportunities for each academy,” he continued. “(For) postsecondary articulation opportunities, we have some really great ones right now — Rutgers, Seton Hall, Fairleigh Dickinson — and we hope to expand those. (We’re) looking to set up articulation agreements with NJIT and expand articulation agreements with Kean and UCC. … The existing science academy has the culminating assessment of the test that the students take for Rutgers accreditation. The difference with the CTE program is we can create our own culminating assessments, either through exams that are teacher created, projects or we can look to expand those external assessments. The best part of it is, students walk away with something tangible … certification. It’s not just a piece on a transcript, but it’s something they can walk away with that’s applicable to not only college but also career.

“Finally, to have a true NJ CTE program, you need to have the staff working with the program to be CTE-certified teachers,” Roach said. “There’s a variety of different pathways that teachers can get a CTE certification — one would be degrees and level of education, another might be experience in the field. We’re confident in looking at those different pathways and then looking at our staffing that we’ll be able to work with getting our staff certified as CTE-certified teachers. Once we have these in place, then we can apply to the state Department of Education for CTE certification, which comes with benefits, including potential Perkins funding through grant money.” The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act is the primary federal funding source for this type of CTE program.

Roach said the proposed academies for the 2022-2023 school year will include biomedical and life sciences; engineering; two academies in the business areas — marketing and accounting; information technology; computer science web design; culinary arts; education; and a variety of performing arts academies, such as vocal music, dance, instrumental music, acting, technical theater and interdisciplinary arts. Examples of various NJ CTE clusters were then displayed, as well as course scheduling for students by year.

Cantagallo said 140 credits are required for graduation, and students are asked to participate in one academy. For the incoming Class of 2026, students don’t have to apply to an academy, as it will be an option for high school students. There are no requirements for most of the academy options. In the performing arts area, individuals will be asked to audition. Interest surveys will be distributed to help plan schedules. Between their freshman orientation on Jan. 11 and some time in February, students will have the opportunity to apply. Students are required to write a statement as to why they want to join a particular academy.
Rubin and the board members congratulated Roach and Cantagallo on a job well done.

“I love the idea that students still have the opportunity and, if they want the traditional comprehensive experience, they can do that and it’s not being taken away in any shape or form,” Rubin said during the meeting. “At the same time, those people that want to focus on a particular college and careers have an opportunity to do so, and it’s nice. They end where they’ve got a choice — they’ve got a credential and the ability if they wanted to go into careers to get an entry-level position. … If they want to continue on into college, they have that opportunity, too. I love the idea of the options.

“The nice part about it is that it’s not just on the content,” he continued. “It’s 21st-century skills. It’s all the things about problem-solving and working with others into a particular area. So all those skills are transferable, whether they decide to stay in that career path or go to another career path. I think that it’s exciting in the way that its been constructed and (I’m) very excited to see students start to select and move the program forward.”

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